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Washington Supreme Court Orders State To Contempt Hearing

Washington Supreme Court
Inside Washington state Supreme Court chambers.

A frustrated Washington Supreme Court appears ready to hold state officials in contempt.

The high court late Thursday ordered the state to appear at a hearing in September to address the lack of a plan to fully fund basic education. The court’s highly unusual move follows a 2012 ruling that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to school children.

The language in the order is stark: "the State is hereby summoned to appear before the Supreme Court to address why the State should not be held in contempt."

It’s signed by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. She’s clearly frustrated that on April 30 lawmakers missed a deadline to provide the court a completed plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.

"We’ve made a little bit of progress, but not a huge amount and that’s what the court is upset about," said Democrat Democrat Ross Hunter, who chairs the House budget committee.

He said he doesn’t blame the court. "They should continue to push us and I believe that they are going to continue to do it. I think that they should do it in a way that’s practical."

By practical, Hunter meant keeping the focus on what’s best for kids.

In its order, The court  indicates that everything is on the table, including monetary fines, prohibiting the legislature from spending money on non-education items and even ordering the state to sell property to fund schools.

The contempt hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."